My father recently purchased a new HP computer with Windows Vista. After a few week of wrangling with a bad sound chip, he’s back in business enjoying his new computer. This past weekend he asked me to help get his HP Deskjet 6127 printer working.
Here’s where things get interesting. Unlike Vista upgrades that are pretty good at telling you which of your installed programs or devices are not supported, plugging an unsupported printer into Vista is like flinging it into a black hole. Maybe it was too simplistic on my part, but I figured his Canon i960 would give him problems before his HP printer would, given his new computer came from HP. But the Canon showed up fine while his HP was missing in action.
I did a quick Google search for the Vista drivers and found the HP support page for his model. I learned that I’ll need to download, install and configure an “alternate” driver for his model which takes no less than 15 steps, including this step, “Change the port from LPT1 to USB or DOT4“. Easy us geeks who do this stuff for a living but not something many people should be expected to understand. Do your parents know what port their current printer is using?
Now my dad is pretty good with computers. He’s worked on them for well over 10 years and is quite comfortable doing basic installs and maintenance. But this driver install is confusing and would be intimidating to those who have never done this before. Someone at HP decided it was easier to create a 15 step work around than it would be to create a Vista driver.
If my brother or I were not around, I’m sure my dad would have bought a new printer that Vista supported. And that’s the rub here. I’m sure HP knows that and has little incentive to create drivers for printers that are a few years old when they can sell new printers to people who don’t know or care about what ports their printer is using. I’ll bet many new computer owners, faced with a similar situation, would blame Microsoft when their printer doesn’t work.
Vista might be a great operating system but it’s only as good as the hardware it supports. If you have one printer and HP hasn’t written a Vista supported driver, you’re hosed. When that happens, the true cost of Vista just increased substantially.
So who should shoulder the blame when this happens? It doesn’t seem fair to bust Microsoft’s chops when a device, made by another company, isn’t supported. Yet isn’t it in Microsoft’s best interest to encourage companies like HP to support printers that are only a couple years old? Maybe they did in this case and HP didn’t listen. Either way, the new computer owner is the loser in such situations.